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Page last updated at 20:46 GMT, Thursday, 17 June 2010 21:46 UK

Venus & Serena start favourites - Lindsay Davenport

Wimbledon Championships
Venue: All England Club, London Date: 21 June - 4 July
Live on BBC One and Two, HD, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only), Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra; live text commentary online and on mobile phones. Full details of BBC coverage

Serena Williams

Highlights - Serena wins third Wimbledon title

By Piers Newbery

Lindsay Davenport knows better than most how it feels to take on the Williams sisters and she is in no doubt about their chances at Wimbledon over the next fortnight.

Serena and Venus are ranked one and two in the world and have won eight of the last 10 Wimbledon singles titles between them. So are they the favourites again this time round?

"Oh gosh, yes," laughs Davenport.

To be fair, the answer follows a thorough explanation from the 1999 Wimbledon champion of just what makes the sisters so tough to beat at the All England Club.

With Serena, even if she lost the first set 6-1 you always got that sense of inevitability that she would come back and turn the tables

Davenport certainly got to know Venus's game inside out in 27 meetings with her fellow American, winning 14 of them but losing all four at Wimbledon, and she also managed four wins in 14 matches against Serena.

"Venus turns into a different player on grass with the way she moves, she's more aggressive and she takes the ball earlier," said Davenport, who will be joining the BBC commentary team for the first time this year.

"On other surfaces she seems to hold back her weight a little more but on grass the pace of her shots is so difficult to handle, and she hits the hardest on tour side to side. She moves better on grass and stays lower, whereas most players struggle with their footing.

Age: 34
Born: Palos Verdes, California
Turned pro: 1993
Grand Slam titles: 3 (US Open '98, Wimbledon '99, Australian Open '00)
Singles titles: 55
Doubles titles: 37
Highest ranking: 1 (2001, 2004, 2005)
Prize money: £14,952,032

"In 2005, I had a championship point in the final against Venus but I was 4-2 up in the third, and that's where the match was lost.

"To her credit, in previous matches against me she hadn't played her best when she was down, she tended to go away a little, but that day she came through.

"I always got that sense very early with Venus whether she was having an on or off day. If it was an on day she was the best out there, but if she was off she found it hard to win with her B or C game.

"Serena was the exact opposite. With Serena, even if she lost the first set 6-1 you always got that sense of inevitability that she would come back and turn the tables. She's got that never-say-die attitude that's really once in a generation.

"I'm not surprised that Serena is still there at the top, I think she's got older and a bit wiser and she wants to win as many Grand Slams as she can. She's a different player at the majors as she's playing for a place in history."

Lindsay Davenport
Davenport beat Steffi Graf to win Wimbledon in 1999

Serena will be attempting to win her 13th Grand Slam singles title over the next two weeks, which would move her past Billie Jean King and into fifth place on her own in the all-time list.

Venus has seven major singles titles, including five at Wimbledon, and the only player in the field who can match that is Justine Henin.

The Belgian returned to the tour at the start of 2010 after two years in retirement and has made it her aim to win a first Wimbledon title.

"Justine has been very outspoken about trying to win Wimbledon being her reason for coming back but the problem is that she's now trying to play a bigger game," said Davenport, "and she doesn't seem totally confident going for so many winners and big serves.

"The French Open was hers to win but I was a little bit stunned watching her as she wasn't playing her usual clay-court game.

"When she played Maria Sharapova she tried to outhit her, which is the one thing Maria does better than her.


"At Wimbledon she's going to have to serve incredibly well and that's been problematic.

"She's such a good athlete she can run down a lot of balls but I can't see her hanging with the likes of the Williams sisters, I just don't think she can get it together in the last two weeks."

Henin's compatriot, Kim Clijsters, is also enjoying a second career after a spell in retirement and, having won her first Grand Slam tournament back at the US Open, she too is targeting a first Wimbledon crown.

"Kim knows how to win majors, she moves extremely well and hits the ball hard," said Davenport. "Her problem is finding the consistency, day in day out.

"She has a big backswing on her forehand side and for her to win at Wimbledon things must play out in the draw for her.

"To beat Venus and Serena will be a tough task but she moves well, she's got the experience and she's one of the few that can challenge them."

Francesca Schiavone

Impressive Schiavone claims title

Beyond the Belgians, serious competitors to the Williams sisters look thin on the ground. Italy's Francesca Schiavone was the surprise winner of the French Open but has just one quarter-final to her name at Wimbledon.

"The French Open final was so refreshing to see as Francesca went out in the biggest game of her career and played her best tennis - she really wanted it," said Davenport.

"I think her chances of winning another Slam are slim but she's a great player and she'll never forget that moment.

"It's tough to recover in two weeks from something like that though and at Wimbledon her ball will sit up for her opponents to hit, so her game really isn't suited to the grass."

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, has been struggling to rediscover her Grand Slam winning form in the last year since returning from shoulder surgery but an encouraging performance in defeat by Henin at the French Open suggests she could be a threat on a surface she prefers.

"Sharapova's serve looked to be in a better rhythm in Paris, it was working as a unit, and she's won at Wimbledon so she's comfortable there," said Davenport.

"For her it's all about controlling the baseline rallies and keeping the points short as she doesn't move as well as some of the other girls.

"Very few players have successfully come back from shoulder surgery and Wimbledon is certainly her best chance of getting back to winning Grand Slams."

Centre Court roof

Report - Centre Court's new roof

Aside from those mentioned, the only other player in the women's draw with Grand Slam titles to her name is the out-of-form Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Davenport does not see a likely contender out there.

"I've yet to see anybody else prove they can take on the Williams sisters, Henin and Clijsters," said the American.

"Caroline Wozniacki is a great player but I think she lacks that one big shot, and Jelena Jankovic had her best opportunity yet to win a Grand Slam at the French Open but in a big match she's yet to pull through."

Davenport's last visit to Wimbledon as a player was two years ago and this time she will be bringing the whole family with her, but there is one change to the All England Club that she is keen to see.

"Since I was last here we have the roof over Centre Court," she said. "I can't wait to see it, it will be interesting.

"It has the potential to mess up the draw if it rains early on as the top players will continue to go through, but it will work great if it rains in the latter stages."

Lindsay Davenport will be part of the BBC's commentary team for Wimbledon 2010, which begins on 21 June.

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see also
Serena powers to Wimbledon title
04 Jul 09 |  Tennis

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